Science Questions

Do genes affect our skills?

Sat, 14th Apr 2007

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Question

Delano Mills, Solihul asked:

How do genes recognise things that start out being skills such as musical ability, artistic ability, or even football skills? For example, apart from me no one among my brothers and sisters are musical.

Answer

The idea that skills we have acquired in life are inherited is known as Lamarckism, and although this was once a widely held belief it is now thought to be wrong.  Skills and abilities are most likely to have developed as a result of the environment you were brought up in, a case for nurture rather than nature.  There is some genetic data to suggest that certain abilities, like the ability to recognise ‘perfect pitch’, have a genetic component.  This wouldn’t mean you would be born with musical ability, but being able to reproduce music more accurately than most may make you more likely to decide to get into music, and develop your musical skills.

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